Exercise – Vertical and horizontal frames

This is one of the exercises I missed as I worked through the first stage of the course and although you might not be able to tell from the images below, I really did get the point of this exercise. The idea was to take 20 consecutive pictures, vertically framed. Then to retrace our steps and shoot a horizontal version of each one, proving that it is habit that causes us to favour horizontal framing and that ‘with a little effort, you can make most scenes work vertically’.

The theory behind this, and the reason cameras are built the way they are, is because of the way our vision works. Our eyes, being next to each other tend to scan from side to side, rather than up and down. Our tendency is to use vertical framing only on upright subject – portraits and buildings for example. Even if we do use upright subjects in horizontal frames, we’ll find it more comfortable off-centre, allowing us to scan the space next to the subject.

Further to this, I believe that as images are more usually shot for display on a computer screen these days than publication in books or magazines, horizonal framing is more suited to this format.

I shot these pictures in a 10 minute walk across Wroclaw (before turning around and walking back to get the horizontal versions), but do have a confession to make. I received a battery grip for my camera for Christmas and today was the first opportunity to use it. It meant taking vertically framed pictures was just as ergonomically comfortable as shooting horizontally – in fact, the grip is even more comfortable than my usual hand position and so preferable. Also, I used a 50mm fixed lens, meaning I couldn’t zoom to suit the subject, other than walking closer.

Looking at the results, I probably didn’t vary the subject matter enough. I really dislike craning my neck and camera upwards to take pictures of buildings, preferring to shoot them from further away with sensible verticals. That combined with the speed I was travelling across the city meant that almost everything here is shot at eye level.

What the horizontal framing does is give a little context. It allows the viewer to see further along the street in a couple of cases. Conversely, the vertical shots tend to concentrate on the subject alone.

I’ll probably repeat this exercise at some point to better demonstrate the point…

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